Unethical Quote of the Day: Slate’s David Weigel

“The Washington Post condemned Reid for “smear tactics not unlike those of Joseph McCarthy,” which makes sense if you think that refusing to release your tax returns is like being unfairly accused of membership in the Communist Party. It’s a nice idea, that the majority leader of the United States Senate should operate under some rules of decorum about truth, even if it is only randomly applied.”

—-Slate’s David Weigel, in a post dismissing Harry Reid’s Big Lie attack on Mitt Romney as “politics as usual.”

Somewhere at the bottom of the journalism barrel you may see David Weigel, mangling ethics

David Weigel is a Democratic flack posing as a political reporter, and my standards for his writing is low—but not this low.

The Post’s quite correct condemnation of Reid does not, as Weigel disingenuously suggests, amount to saying that “refusing to release your tax returns is like being unfairly accused of membership in the Communist Party.” It amounts to saying that publicly accusing a political adversary of evading his taxes for ten years using nothing more than hearsay from anonymous, dubious and unrevealed sources is like accusing a political adversary of belonging to the Communist party using similar tactics. Romney’s choice not to release his taxes doesn’t justify or excuse Reid’s smear, any more than McCarthy’s victims’ associating with Americans who exercised their Constitutional rights by espousing Communist sympathies justified McCarthy’s smear. Weigel is using a false and flawed analogy to excuse the inexcusable, because, like Reid, he’s on Team Obama.

But he doesn’t stop there.  His last phrase, “if it is only randomly applied,” links to a speech by former GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist advocating the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and referencing the “fact” that Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction.” This proves that Weigel is a dishonest reporter, an ethics dunce, and a partisan hack. The argument that the Bush Administration didn’t believe that Hussein had WMD’s has been thoroughly debunked, regardless of whether its belief was sufficiently well-founded (obviously, it was not, but that’s hindsight bias). The over-whelming majority of the Senate that approved the Iraq invasion all believed it too, including Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. For Weigel to insinuate that Frist was lying when there is only evidence that he was mistaken is worthy of Harry Reid. Moreover, even if Frist was lying, it doesn’t make what Reid said any less outrageous or unethical. Weigel is essentially appealing to multiple rationalizations here: “Everybody does it, “They do it too!,” “Tit for Tat,’ and “It’s not the worst thing!”

For a supposed journalist, Weigel’s quote is proof of disqualifying ethics rot. I enjoy Slate, but if it continues to employ writers like Weigel I may have to put it on the shelf with Breitbart as inherently untrustworthy.


Source: Slate

Graphic: Librarians Matter

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

5 thoughts on “Unethical Quote of the Day: Slate’s David Weigel

  1. I’m on the same page about 95% of the way. But the comment about Frist is bad. You switched from “true” to “believe to be true”. If Reid actually believes Romney didn’t pay any taxes, then he has be to be excused the same way you’re excusing Frist’s comment.

    • I’ll buy that, but that’s not what Weigel is implying,

      He accepts that Reid is lying as a condition of the article, and uses the bogus claim that Frist was lying to justify it. But there is no way Frist could have “known” there were no WMD’s, and frankly, I’ve never heard anyone accuse Frist of doing anything but assuming that the administration’s intelligence is correct.

      If you want to take the “both Frist and Reid weren’t lying tact,” which Weiegl wasn’t, it still doesn’t work. Frist was accusing a foreign dictator of not unlikely misconduct.using presumed valid and reliable information and sources. That’s not even close to accusing a presidential candidate of implausible misconduct (nobody believes that Romney paid no taxes for 10 years) based on a anonymous accuser you refuse to disclose.


      • I agree with you about Weigel was and wasn’t suggesting. And I agree with you that relying on solid is different from relying on hearsay.

        As I said, I’m in agreement 95% of the way, you just got a little sloppy in your attack.

        • No true scotsman fallacy. Equivocation. If i’m in charge of beating the dust out of rugs, am I a DH? I’m definitely designated as a hitter, but that’s not what the term refers to.

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